Flint sees increase in theft of catalytic converters
FLINT, MI – The town of Flint has seen an increase in catalytic converter thefts since the start of the summer, police say.
These thefts result in costly repairs and lost transportation for residents and businesses, Police Chief Terence Green told MLive-The Flint Journal.
The local increase in thefts follows a nationwide trend amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The increase began in March 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the United States
As of December 2020, catalytic converter thefts were as high as 3,200 per month nationwide, according to NICB’s Operations, Intelligence and Analytics study.
The average number of flights per month in 2020 was 1,203 compared to 282 average monthly flights in 2019 and 108 average monthly flights in 2018.
The catalytic converter device looks like a small muffler and is designed to convert environmentally hazardous exhaust gases emitted by an engine into less harmful gases using platinum, palladium or rhodium.
Great Lakes Facility Management Inc. has been the victim of two thefts of catalytic converters in the past four months at its facilities on the 1400 block of West Court Street, said executive vice president Baru Belin.
Belin said the first catalytic converter was stolen from a company box truck a few months ago.
After the first flight, the company invested $ 400 in cameras.
Early in the morning of Friday, September 17, Belin said the thieves had returned to his business. They were filmed attempting to grab the catalytic converter from the company’s Ford F-150 truck.
A neighbor heard a saw and called the police around 6:30 a.m., Belin said. The thieves were unable to remove the converter originally and left before the police arrived.
They returned later that day and were stopped by officers who continued to survey the area after the first call.
Three people were arrested for theft, police said.
While thieves might only get around $ 200 for scrap metal, replacing the part can cost vehicle owners significantly more, Belin noted.
Belin said he was happy that suspects were arrested in the second robbery at his business, but he wants to know what is being done to prevent scrap dealers from buying the metal.
The truck was significantly damaged before the suspects were arrested on Friday and Belin said he still had to pay around $ 1,500 in repairs for the second time this year. This does not include the cost of renting an additional vehicle while the truck is in the workshop.
“These catalytic converters, they’re mandated by law,” he said. “You have to have them on your car, so I have to go put another one on my car, and then that makes my car a target again to be stolen again.” Then they take it back. Then I have to put on another one and it’s just a continuous cycle. It’s crazy.”
When a converter is stolen, the driver can tell immediately because the vehicle “looks like a tank” and quickly fills with fumes and exhaust when turned on, Belin said.
In recent years, the values of these precious metals have increased dramatically, according to the NICB.
As of December 2020, rhodium was valued at $ 14,500 per ounce, palladium at $ 2,336 per ounce and platinum at $ 1,061 per ounce.
Typically, recyclers will pay $ 50 to $ 250 per catalytic converter.
“This is an opportunistic crime,” National Insurance Crime Bureau President and CEO David Glawe said in a press release. “As the value of the precious metals contained in catalytic converters continues to increase, the number of thefts of these devices is also increasing. There is a clear link between times of crisis, limited resources and the disruption of the supply chain that drives investors to these precious metals. “
Flint muffler shops and auto mechanics have also noticed an increase in the number of people coming in to have a converter replaced, said Olivia Portillo, manager of Muffler Man on Fenton Road in Flint.
Although she said she noticed an increase this summer, those thefts have been a constant problem throughout her nine years with the local store.
Portillo works Monday through Saturday and receives three to four calls a week about a stolen converter.
Converters are worth a maximum of $ 250, she said. But she added that most landfills now ask for ID and proof of ownership before handing over a converter, noting that she doesn’t know who the thieves are selling the converts to.
Universal converter replacements on older cars can cost as low as $ 280 to $ 380, Portillo said.
However, people who steal the converter often damage other parts of the vehicle, including the O2 sensor, which adds additional cost.
For more specialized vehicles, such as those damaged by Great Lakes Facility Management Inc., the price can go up to $ 2,500.
“Converters don’t come cheap,” Portillo said.
The Flint Police Department is urging residents to report any suspicious activity in order to prevent theft of catalytic converters.
It may take less than a minute for the catalytic converter part to be cut off and thieves can strike at any time.
The officer responsible for cases involving thefts of vehicles and vehicle parts in the city for the Flint Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment.
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